Elephant and rhino poaching is surging, conservationists say, as Asia and particularly China scramble for African resources, driven by the growing purchasing power of the region's newly affluent classes.
Reuters reports that gold demand from the world's most populous country is growing at a phenomenal rate, to the point where some analysts expect China to overtake India as the biggest gold consumer this year. Demand for ivory as an ornamental item is rising in tandem. The street value of rhino horn has skyrocketed to $65,000 a kg, against $52,500 for a kg of gold at current spot prices.
Ivory and rhino horn and skin - boiled and ingested - have been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine, which is practiced not only in Chinese communities but increasingly by other ethnic groups around the world. Wu Chi, a traditional Chinese medicine doctor in Hong Kong, told Reuters that elephant ivory is believed to be useful in treating liver cancer and rhino horn for several types of cancers. He said practitioners try to use substitutes, but acknowledged demand for the real thing is very strong.
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